Tuesday 15th June 2010

Hansard of the Legislative Council


Mr DEAN (Windermere - Motion) - Madam President, I move the amended motion in my name -

That the Legislative Council calls on the Government to legislate against smoking in all malls, bus transit stations, alfresco dining areas and children's play areas across the State.


Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Madam President, passive smoking and its effects on non-smokers is the obvious issue here, but I suppose it comes back to nobody having the right in public places to do things that have a detrimental effect on others.  Breathing in other people's tobacco smoke can contribute to the same diseases and conditions that affect smokers.  I only have to recall previous debates we have had here in respect of stopping smoking in nightclubs and in bars.  We heard a lot of evidence in respect to that.  Member for Launceston, we are on a journey with smoking - with people's addiction.  If we go back to where we have come from, when nearly everybody smoked and cigarettes were free for armed forces.  I remember a carton of cigarettes arrived for the sports commentator at the ABC in Launceston once a week and that was:  'Lucky him, I wish that happened for me'.  It was like we were inveigled into accepting that smoking was just part and parcel of life and the way we lived our lives.

On screen and on stage, a cigarette was always the favourite prop of an actor to accentuate their acting and the things they were saying and doing.  In fact I remember a play that I was in, Rattle of a Simple Man, many years ago.  It required the lead actor - it was only a two-handed play so it was not hard to be one of the two lead actors -

Members laughing.

Mr FINCH - I remember that I had at that stage given up smoking for 10 years but I said to the director that I was happy to smoke for the authenticity of the play and the movements that were in the script.  It required me to be sitting on the floor at the base of a bed -

Mr Wilkinson - Was it a drinking year?

Mr FINCH - No.

Mr Wilkinson - So it's one year off for drinking and a decade off for smoking.

Members laughing.

Mr FINCH - I am about to talk about falling over.  I had to take just the one draw from a cigarette and then stand up, walk across the stage and turn and face the other actor so I thought I would not do it during rehearsals but at the dress rehearsal I would give it a try.  I sat on the floor, lit up the cigarette, as I used to, did the drawback, ashed the cigarette and then stood up, walked across and stood and turned back around and actually swayed from the effect of one puff of a cigarette.

Mr Wilkinson - Are you sure it was only a cigarette?

Mr FINCH - I will not make any comment in case I incriminate myself.  One draw of a cigarette had that dramatic effect on me, so imagine what your body learns to cope with when you are a regular smoker.  I am one of the all-time great smokers.  I smoked 60 cigarettes a day constantly for many years.  I remember being caught smoking - just one of those vivid flashes of memory that you have from your early childhood - at two years of age.

You say, 'Oh, preposterous!'  I can tell you now, I remember vividly being in Bathurst Street in the backyard, in the chookhouse with my older brother, who was two years older than I was.  We were on rations for cigarettes.  Mum and Dad were both smokers and we had found out where the cigarettes were kept.  Up we went to the chookhouse and proceeded to light these cigarettes.  I remember thinking at that age that they had put the little orange bit on the end of it to show you which end to light.

Members laughing.

Mr FINCH - We were lighting newspaper so that it would keep burning so that we could have not just one cigarette but a lot of them.  I demolished a couple of packets by burning the wrong end of the cigarette.

Mr Wing - Was your brother younger than you?

Mr FINCH - He was two years older than me.  The only other vivid memory I have is Dad appearing at the door of the chookhouse.

Mr Wilkinson - He said, 'Don't be chicken'.

Mr FINCH - I was chicken, I shot straight out the chook hole.  He caught my older brother and gave him a bit of a hiding.  I suppose, from watching mum and dad, you wanted to be as adult as you possibly could be.  I remember, too, we moved up to Fern Tree on Mount Wellington and in that sort of environment you tend to mix with young and older kids, tackers up to teenagers, 17-18 years of age.  At that stage most of the teenagers were smokers.

Here were the younger tackers looking on and wanting to be grown up.  I remember in the bush at Fern Tree they were going to teach me how to smoke a cigarette, how to do the drawback.  The drawback was the big thing.  Puffing away, having smoke going everywhere was neither here nor there but being courageous enough to do the drawback and withstand the impact that it has on the chest that makes you cough, was your rite of passage.  I would only have been probably five and here I am up in the scrub.

Members laughing.

Mr FINCH - I was an old five.  I am there in the bush learning to master the drawback.  That was the start of it.  Subsequently, away I went.  My brother and I, two years older than me, became smokers through that age group right into school years.  I suppose that there was an addiction then.  Mum tried everything she possibly could to stop us from smoking and in fact had to give in because we were becoming alienated, ostracised from the family because we were not going to stop smoking.  I remember Mum had to let us smoke at home to satisfy us.  She agreed that my older brother who was 15 and I, at 13, could smoke at home.  I then smoked on a regular basis from 13 years of age.  You would greet that with incredulity these days - you just would not allow young people to do that.

Ms Rattray - You would not be allowed to live at my place if you wanted to smoke at 13.

Mr FINCH - So, how far have we come?  We have come a long way from those days when it was accepted that you would do that.  I remember when I was about 24 years of age that I had to climb up a flight of stairs and at the top of the stairs I was just worn out and huffing and puffing.  I remember the reason that I gave up smoking.  I was sitting in a radio studio with Tops Jowett, who was a popular northern Tasmanian entertainer.  You would remember her, member for Launceston.  Tops had just returned from a trip to America and she had taken 33-odd people to America as their host, which is quite a lot of work.  It was about a three-week tour.  She had come back and she was sitting in the studio opposite me, relating the story of Americans and their habit of  having a glass of iced water with their meal.  She was saying, 'You know, you drink this water - I felt so refreshed and so young'. 

She was into her fifties, right, and I was looking over there and she looked radiant.  She looked absolutely radiant after this heck of a journey and I was sitting there - I was unshaven, I had sunken eyes, I was sallow, I could hardly breathe and I was smoking a cigarette.  I looked across and I thought, no, this has to stop, and it was at that point I took a break.  I went upstairs and I said to the girl at the desk, 'I am giving up smoking from now'.

Mr Dean - Do you think it worked for you?

Members laughing.

Mr FINCH - It was Sally King, Peter Kay's wife.  I said to Sally, 'Here are my cigarettes, I am giving up'.  I remember there was a chap standing close by and he said 'Oh no, no, you will never do it.  You will never do it.  I will bet you $5 you cannot go a week'.  This particular chap had short arms and long pockets and had a reputation for it.  I said to him, 'Make it $10 for a fortnight'.  He said, 'Yeah, yeah, okay, you are on'.  Now I was more determined, I think, to get that $10.  I am forever indebted to him because of the challenge of getting the $10 out of that chap.  I will not name him - I do not want to embarrass his relatives, and he has subsequently passed away.

Mr Wilkinson - He has sown his pockets up too, hasn't he?

Mr FINCH - It was my determination to get that $10.  As I say, that then turned into here at 24 years of age giving up smoking.  I had been smoking for 22 years by that time.  I was on 60 a day and loved 45 of them.  It was really just fantastic because I was really in the groove of this addiction but knew it had to go because of my health and not being able to be physical. 

So that was that - that was my Everest.  That was the biggest life challenge that I have ever experienced.  That might seem silly.  To somebody who is a non-smoker, you do not understand.  Your Everest?  What?  Just giving up smoking?   That is easy.  No, it is not.  It can be - it certainly was for me - the most dramatic life challenge I have ever had.

Mr Wing - For how long did you have to battle with that once you had decided to give up?

Mr FINCH - Two years, because I saw everybody around me saying, 'Oh, I am giving up,  I am giving up', and then they had the despondency of not being able to meet the challenge.  As they say, 'It is easy to give up smoking - I have done it hundreds of times!'  But I did not want to fall into the trap of letting myself down by saying I am going to give up, but then not being able to succeed with it. 

I stored up all of my internal grunt to say, when I actually say I am going to give up that will be the time I strike hard and go for it.  From that moment I went cold turkey and well, I am here to tell the tale.  It has been a really good experience for me and I think the willpower and being able to achieve that has given me the opportunity to have that control over other elements of my life.  Particularly, as you know, I have  my strange drinking habit, starting from midnight New Year's Eve, then going a year with alcohol of a year without alcohol. 

I credit it to this challenge that I had to face with cigarettes.  Because of that having such a huge impact on my life, I do not think there is anything that requires me to have a personal challenge that I could not achieve if I set my mind to it - because of the strength that came from that moment. 

Ms Thorp - But are you supporting the motion?

Members laughing.

Mr FINCH - You get a sense of that, do you?

Ms Thorp - I am curious.

[5.15 p.m.]
Mr FINCH - For many non-smokers smoke-filled areas are unpleasant.  When you are smoking you do not notice it because you are so used to the cigarette smoke, as I have suggested.  The more people are not smoking, the more we are cleaning up our public places and areas where you can smoke, the fresher the air is becoming.

Mr Wing - And taking pressure off hospitals.

Mr FINCH - That can only be a good thing.  The number of Australians who do not smoke is steadily increasing and this is partly because of the increased cost of cigarettes.  I remember when I gave up smoking, Benson & Hedges were 75 cents a packet and what do you pay now?  Is there somebody who can help me with the cost of cigarettes?

Mr Parkinson - It was 32 cents when I gave it up.

Mr Wilkinson - It is about $20.

Mr FINCH - A pack of 30 I think they sell them in now.

Mr Wilkinson - I think it is $20 for 20.

Mr FINCH - It is bizarre that you would pay that sort of money in full knowledge that goes with the packet of the consequences of the habit.

Mr Wilkinson - Your old habit would have cost you around $20 000-odd a year - a lot of money for a two-year-old.

Members laughing.

Mr FINCH - That just tells you something of the strength of the addiction and how powerful it is, that even though people know how bad it is for them they are still driven by the power of that addiction.

Ms Thorp - I'm going to have to go out and have one in a minute.

Members laughing.

Mr FINCH - The public awareness of the health effects has been very effective but also this legislation that the member for Windermere is talking about I am going to support because to me we have to take all those incremental steps, slowly but surely, to tell people of the dangers and to help them through the process by making them feel more and more the pressure of being a smoker and that they have to do something about that circumstance.  They have to take that personal action and whatever it takes.

I know I have some friends who have been very successful with the psychologist helping them through that process but I do not know, are there any smokers who do not want to give up smoking?  It would be very few who would say that they smoke because they love it and they do not care and they are just smoking because it is one of life's pleasures.  They do not do that.  Generally, to me - and people might tell me differently -  people smoke but they do not want to be smokers, they are driven by this very strong addiction.

One of the proposed clauses deals with smoking in outdoor dining areas and it is interesting that some cafés and restaurants of course have already realised the unpleasant effects on their customers and are already discouraging smokers in outdoor areas.  It was interesting, my son was telling me a story on Sunday night - and he has been known to have the odd cigarette or two - about when he was with a couple of friends who are regular smokers and they went to Aroma's near the Launceston General Hospital and were sitting outside.  My son, who is not averse to cigarettes, found it quite strange that those two fellows lit up cigarettes in the outdoor area - so he noticed it straightaway because in Victoria, where those two fellows are based, people do that, they smoke outside.  But we are more and more shunning that, getting away from that, dealing with cleaner air, so he noticed straightaway that that was quite at odds with the environment and with what people were there for.  They are there for their food and their coffee and not really to smoke.  And fresh air - you are sitting outside because you want fresh air.

Elaia's - and I do not know if you mentioned it, member for Windermere, did you mention Elaia's?

Mr Dean - No.

Mr FINCH - In Charles Street in Launceston, that is one of them.  There is a sign outside declaring the outdoor area is a nonsmoking zone.

Mr Wing - Very good.

Mr FINCH - They are being proactive in that, and they are experienced and knowledgable about their clientele; they know that that is what their clients are going to appreciate and are going to want. 

You also mentioned bus transit stations.  Even in the open air, cigarette smoke can become concentrated in these.  In Launceston's St Johns Street there is a good example of that where young students and others are likely to inhale the smoke of numerous smokers.  There are children's playgrounds too.  I know that the member for Windermere has tried to get that area in the mall designated as a non-smoking area.  That is an obvious area for regulation.  Unfortunately I think the Minister for Education has left the Chamber.

Mr Wing - I think that she has probably gone out to have one of those.

Mr FINCH - I did want to draw to her attention the work of Life Education centres which I embraced many years ago when it first came into Tasmania.  It was instigated at the Wayside Chapel by Reverend Ted Noffs.  I know the member for Western Tiers and others have been involved in that program from time to time, with varying degrees of input.  It was very unfortunate that traction could not be made with the Department of Education at that time to have the Life Education program developed in Tasmania.

It was left to people like your good self, Madam President, parents, supporters and sponsors to try and run the program.  For a place like Tasmania, it took three vans and four to five teachers/educators to go around and give kids K-6 the education and the involvement with their educators to learn about their uniqueness and how important it is to make the right decisions about their health and their bodies.

It was an exemplary program that was not supported by the education system at that time.  Subsequently, because there was no encouragement, it did fall away.  Other reasons too of course.  But I am pleased to say, and just drawing the attention of the Minister for Education, that Life Education is looking -

Ms Thorp -  Through you, Madam President, my husband heard you say that. I was just talking to him and he said that the Minister for Education has just nicked out.

Mr FINCH - Right, it is good to have that support personnel around you to encourage you to come back into the Chamber so that you can hear the talk about Life Education.   I know that the people who are doing this, the Victorian component of Life Education, want to develop Tasmania.  They are going to take us on as partners.  They have already.  They have been at Agfest a couple of times and they are growing their work.  I just want to read to you from the latest Life Education National magazine

Madam PRESIDENT - You will relate it to the motion, won't you?

Mr FINCH - Absolutely.  There is smoking mentioned down here somewhere or will be.

Members laughing.

Mr FINCH - You jest, I know, because you would understand one of the big issues for children at school, what I suffered from and what others dealt with, was this maturity that smoking cigarettes gave you.

Ms Thorp - He was two years old!

Mr FINCH - It did not work in my case this is the point I am making.

Madam PRESIDENT - Some might say you should take it back up.

Members laughing.

Mr FINCH - What happened to kids then as well as now is that they see this as a sign of maturity and they want to be able to do this.  They want to be able to smoke cigarettes.  The work of Life Education centres, in respect of their empowerment of young people with the decisions that they make, really comes back to smoking, and alcohol as well, and then the other harder drugs and drugs of more significance that they then will move on to, if they are not making the right decisions.  That is what Life Education teaches young people:  how to make good decisions. 

I will just give you this story about Tasmania: 

'One of the most exciting developments this year has been the establishment of a support group in Tasmania.  Leading the charge back to Tasmania, after an absence of eleven years, is Mr Stuart Bryce, Chairman of the newly formed Tasmanian committee. 

Tasmania continues to progress and we will be delivering our programs to a few schools each term in 2010 to promote awareness and increase publicity.' 

Ms Thorp - Have they asked permission?

Mr FINCH - I think I might be asking now.  If my memory serves me correctly it occurs, I think, out of school hours but it might be with the cooperation of the school.  Schools could make a decision on that themselves, could they not?  A principal?  The article goes on:

'The training of an educator will occur in the second half of 2010, commencing a full operation in 2011. 

LETAS will operate as a committee of LEV until the Tasmanian operation is fully up and running.  We can now say that we are a truly national organisation, having Life Ed's presence in all states and territories.' 

So, Minister, we are the last to come on board with this program that is not only in Australia but also in Barbados, Cyprus, Finland, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Macau, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.  That program from Rev. Ted Noffs of the Wayside Chapel is not a religious program, I hasten to add.  If the Department of Education takes it on and fully supports it, to me that will be a progression of this circumstance where we are trying to help people make the right decisions, particularly on things like smoking, alcohol and other drugs. 

I am always mindful of restricting people's habits, their pleasures and their vices.  Of course if it does impact on us we must be intrusive so I have no hesitation in supporting the motion from the member for Windermere.